Distributed by: A24
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Often times, I receive a soundtrack that inspires me to see the movie. Such is the case with Room, a movie based on a novel by Emma Donoghue, whose musical score was composed by Stephen Rennicks. I was so moved by the score and intrigued by the storyline that I couldn't wait to see the film as soon as it became available for home viewing.
Room stars Brie Larson as Joy Newsome, a young woman who was abducted at the age of seventeen when a man she calls Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) tricked her into thinking he needed help with his sick dog. Since then, she has been kept in a garden shed, locked away from the rest of the world, routinely sexually abused by Old Nick. Two years after her abduction she gave birth to a son named Jack (Jacob Tremblay). For the next five years, her life revolves around keeping Jack safe.
Shortly after Jack's fifth birthday, Joy learns that Old Nick has lost his job and is barely able to maintain a living, much less provide them with things that a growing boy needs. She realizes that she will no longer be able to keep Jack safe as long as they remain in what she has been calling "Room." After so many years of telling Jack that there was nothing outside of Room, she now has to tell him the truth.
Joy must imbue him with enough knowledge to help him survive in the world, because she has developed a plan for escape. Rolling Jack up in a carpet and pretending he is dead, she tricks Old Nick into taking him out of Room and putting him in his truck bed. Jack must make it out of the rug and escape the truck to freedom, telling anyone he comes across that he and his mother need help.
But once freed, will the outside world ever feel as safe as the four walls and skylight of Room?
Before I had the opportunity to see Room, a friend told me of their experience, explaining that the movie was excellent, but that he cried throughout the two hours of the film. I understand that the subject matter is difficult to contend with, but after seeing this film, I thought they were looking at it all wrong. You have to watch this movie through the eyes of Jack. Of course, abductions happen all of the time and most don't end the way this story does. But this story actually does have a happier ending if you look past the sadness of the situation.
Reading what I just wrote, I can actually picture the question mark going off above people's heads. Let me explain. Room is not just a story about someone who was abducted and kept in a tiny room for seven years. Room is about the survival of a woman and her son. Room is about how the birth of her son saved Joy just as much as his eventual escape did. If Jack was not born, chances are that Joy would have been dead years ago. I know it is hard for people to understand when an abducted woman has children with her captor, but often times its keeping that child safe that reminds them how precious life is and that gives them something to fight for. They survive so that their child can survive. They make the difficult decisions like Joy makes when she hides Jack in that rug so that her child can have a better life.
And now I ask you to look at the movie through Jack's eyes. He is young and therefore resilient, able to handle being in the world better than Joy can. Though he is scared at first, he sees the world as a brand new adventure. Everything is new to him and this should not make us sad - it should make us happy. In fact, I found myself smiling during several scenes in which Jack discovers new things. If anything, tears of sadness that may come when we watch Joy struggle with her return to normalcy should be replaced by those of happiness as we watch Jack experience the world he was always meant to be in.
So, yes, the original situation is sad, horrifically so, and if we realize that so many of the abducted never get out of these situations alive, we can and should be overcome by grief. But the situation in Room has a different ending - time and time again, Jack finds a way to save Joy - through his birth, through his wide-eyed discovery of the world, through his offering of his own strength. There is a special beauty in that and for that reason, I can't stay sad.
A special kudos go out to the actors in this film especially Brie Larson, Jacob Trembly, Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus. Brie Larson doesn't have to say a word to express the desperation, pain and grief she feels as a captive of Old Nick, and later, as a captive of her own mind as she struggles to cope with what she has been through and her return to her old life. Nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay is incredible in this film. His facial expressions depict a maturity beyond his years and his ability to perform such a dramatic role in a way that makes the viewer completely understand everything he is going through is simply amazing for someone his age. Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus have rather small roles in comparison, but they are just as important to the film and are performed brilliantly.
The score was incredible and you can read all about how it inspired me to see the film at http://www.g-pop.net/room.htm. And that cinematography - genius in how it helped us see the scary, yet amazing world in which we live through the eyes of a child who is just now beginning to experience it.
I highly recommend Room to anyone who enjoys a good dramatic film. Sure, you may need a box of tissues, but the storyline, acting and childlike wonderment are well worth the cost of a box of Kleenex. Now, I'm going to have to read the book to make the experience complete!